Donegal can turn their thoughts to Tyrone after they disposed of Derry in the Ulster championship quarter-final on Saturday evening.
With news that even Pat Spillane is coming around to our way of thinking with his praise for Donegal on RTE’s The Sunday Game, there is growing optimism that the county has been further improved under Jim McGuinness’s stewardship in 2012.
The Donegal public will get their chance to put a few questions to Spillane, as he will be in Letterkenny next Wednesday with the Ulster Bank GAA Roadshow.
But all of that will be a sideshow for Jim McGuinness and Donegal as they prepare for their biggest challenge of the year. Twelve months ago, Tyrone posed serious problems for Donegal at the semi-final stage and an injury which forced Joe McMahon to be replaced came at a critical time.
This time around Donegal would seem to be in a much better place and will go to St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones, on Saturday week (30th June, 4.30 throw-in) in a confident frame of mind after two championship wins.
The Donegal game plan has been tweaked with more emphasis on attack, something that manager McGuinness pointed out after the Derry game.
“We are trying to put more of an emphasis on the offensive side of our game. Last year was important for the county; it was important to bring an Ulster championship back to the county,” he said.
“We want to push forward and we also want to retain a lot of our good work from a defensive point of view that we used last year,” he said.
Reflecting on the win the Donegal boss said he was happy with the performance but did feel that they may have not put Derry under enough pressure in the first half.
“We were happy with the second half. The first half there were elements of our play we were happy with as well,” explained McGuinness.
“The goals did come at very good times for us and did relax us but the one thing we learned from the game is that we are going to have to take the game to the opposition much earlier the next day.”
The Donegal manager reported no ill effects for any of his players after Saturday’s match with Michael Murphy coming through his first game since the March 26th Allianz National League meeting with Dublin in Croke Park.
The return of the Glenswilly man as well as Eamonn McGee being fully fit was a boost for Saturday and the manager is very hopeful that Rory Kavanagh will be at full fitness for the Tyrone game.
All of which means that Donegal are probably at their strongest since McGuinness took over just over eighteen months ago.
The other Ulster semi-final between Monaghan and Down takes place at the Morgan Athletic Grounds, Armagh this Sunday with 2 p.m. throw-in. The minor semi-final between the same counties at 12.15 will have Donegal referee Shaun McLaughlin in charge.